EAGLE, Colorado - District Court Judge Frederick Gannett accepted the plea bargain in the hit-and-run case against prominent Denver wealth manager Marty Erzinger Thursday, sentencing him to one year of probation and 90 days in jail for running down cyclist Dr. Steven Milo with his Mercedes and then leaving the scene last July.
There wasn't an empty seat in the courtroom for the hearing about the July 3 accident in Edwards. It was the first time since the incident that all parties have met in court.
Milo, a 33-year-old New York City anesthesiologist, arrived with an entourage of supportive friends and family members, including his wife, Jennifer, and her father, Tom Marsico, a Denver wealth manager who has landed on Forbes 400 richest Americans list.
Erzinger also had a slew of friends and family in court to testify about his character and about how the case has affected his life.
Gannett listened to counsel for both Erzinger and Milo, as well as Deputy District Attorney Mark Brostrom, for more than two hours over a motion filed by Milo's attorney Harold Haddon filed last week that requested the court reject the plea bargain.
Haddon argued that the deal, which included two misdemeanor charges and no felony charges, wasn't appropriate.
"I submit that in these kinds of instances, prosecutors can, should and do require felony pleas," Haddon said.
Milo suffered numerous injuries in the July 3 accident, including bleeding in his brain, spinal cord and cervical disc injuries and damage to his knee and scapula, according to reports and motions filed on his behalf.
Milo told Gannett Thursday that it was very disappointing to have to fly across the country during his healing process to have to speak out about the case.
Milo spoke about his injuries and the effects they've had on his family. His wife was seven months pregnant at the time of the accident and he said his injuries and subsequent rehabilitation have been very detrimental to their family.
"This has caused a lot of pain and suffering in our family," Milo said.
Milo said Erzinger was manipulative from the beginning and has never taken responsibility for what happened that day.
"This doesn't seem like a man repenting for his sins at all," Milo said.
The "fairy tales" of sleep apnea and a leather car smell - both presented by Erzinger's attorney, Richard Tegtmeier, as causes for the accident - are embarrassing and insulting, Milo said.
Milo also accused Brostrom and District Attorney Mark Hurlbert of being disingenuous during communications about what kind of plea bargain would be offered and the timing of such a deal.
"I think this ship is totally off course at this point, and I think you're the only one who can right the ship, and I'm pretty confident that you will," Milo said.
Gannett said he's thought about the case for about two to three weeks and has seen "high caliber" work presented from each side's counsel.
Gannett expressed sensitivity to Milo's situation, and said that while he might not have offered the same plea bargain as the prosecutors did, that he found it dangerous territory for the court to second-guess the District Attorney's Office and the executive branch of government, of which it is a part.
He said there would be a danger in a court becoming the "instrument of second-guessing the role of separation (of government)."
Gannett spent several minutes explaining his logic for accepting the plea bargain as members of Milo's support group in the audience shook their heads in disagreement.
Gannett said he weighed whether the plea offer itself, on its face, was within a "realm of reasonableness" and determined that it was.
After a short break, Haddon spoke on behalf of Milo during comments taken prior to the sentencing.
Haddon said his client was outraged and because he felt no responsibility had been imposed on Erzinger. Haddon called Erzinger's behavior "cowardly."
"Mr. Erzinger is a man of education, prominence and privilege - with that kind of privilege I submit comes a higher degree of responsibility," Haddon said.
Haddon, recognized as one of the best defense lawyers in the state, if not the country, exited the courtroom with Marsico and the Milos after sentencing and said they were disappointed with the judge's decision.
As Gannett gathered comments from all parties before imposing a sentence, Erzinger spoke for the first time publicly about the case.
Erzinger said the events that have happened over the last six months have been traumatic for everyone involved, and then he turned around and apologized to Milo and his family.
"I am so sorry this happened," Erzinger said. "I pray for your strength and your healing every day. ... I feel a great sense of remorse."
Erzinger and his wife, Suzie, each separately told the court about death threats, hundreds of e-mails full of ill will and slanderous media reports.
Erzinger said he feels constantly at risk of losing his job, which is something Hurlbert expressed sympathy about when describing his reasoning for offering lesser charges in the plea bargain. Gannett, however, showed less sympathy.
Gannett's sentence also prohibits Erzinger from driving a car for one year, and he has the option of either completing 60 days of work release in county jail or doing 45 straight days of charitable work which would require he take a leave of absence from work. He is also required to make a charitable donation and pay court costs and fines.
"From my perspective what counts most is what you do from today forward," Gannett told Erzinger.
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.